Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

71-year-old heart study gets $38M grant for another 6 years: The iconic Framingham Heart Study  was refunded for an additional 6 years. This cohort study has provided many valuable insights into heart disease.

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2019’s Best & Worst States for Children’s Health Care: For those interested in rankings, this one from WalletHub rates states on their care of children. The methodology is interesting; for example one of the three major score components is oral health- not often included in these tabulations. Another interesting finding is correlations (or lack thereof) between local features and overall rank. For example, New York ranks 7th overall but is 48th on the number of pediatricians and family physicians per capita.

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About healthcare technology

Restoration of brain circulation and cellular functions hours post-mortem: This research is the top tech story of the day and is in almost all media. Researchers took pigs heads from a slaughterhouse and documented that individual neuronal activity could be preserved for a time with an infused chemical solution and a waste filter.

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In utero gene editing for monogenic lung disease: This paper details the use of gene editing in a mouse fetus who did not produce a chemical (surfactant) that would help keep the lungs expanded after birth. Researchers hope this new technique, which delivered CRISPR gene-editing reagents into the amniotic fluid, can be used some day to correct in utero human problems.

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Lentiviral Gene Therapy Combined with Low-Dose Busulfan in Infants with SCID-X1: This article was another with widespread coverage in the media. Researchers attached a gene to a virus and then infused it into patients with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (commonly known from the “bubble boy” who’s genetic mutation impaired his ability to mount an immune response). The treatment was a success.

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Fundamentally new MRI method developed to measure brain function in milliseconds: “Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in collaboration with colleagues at King’s College London and INSERM-Paris, have discovered a fundamentally new way to measure brain function using a technology known as magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), an approach that creates maps of tissue stiffness using an MRI scanner.” Traditional functional MRI machines can take as long as 6 seconds to detect changes in brain activity. This new method can measure the activity in about 0.1 seconds. This device promises to be a real breakthrough for neuroscience research.

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Does Gender Leave an Epigenetic Imprint on the Brain?: Environmental stimuli can affect genomes by epigenetic modification, usually adding a methyl group. This article explains how these epigenetic changes can occur with gender-specific behavior in the young. “The argument we are making is that boys and girls, and men and women, have different exposures and experiences based on societal expectations or perceived expectations (i.e., gender), and that some of these exposures/experiences are known to cause epigenetic changes in the brain based on carefully controlled animal studies.” This article is a fascinating look into gender and genetics.

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Best Buy Continues To Bet On Digital Health With New TytoHome Deal: Move over Amazon. Best Buy is now the exclusive seller for the first home telemedicine device.

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About healthcare quality

CMS lays out post-acute care data requirements in proposed rule: CMS aims to improve the quality of post-acute care. One of the big problems is errors from patient transfers. To address this issue, CMS has added the Transfer of Health Information to the Provider–Post-Acute Care (PAC) Measure to assesses whether or not a current reconciled medication list is given to the subsequent provider when a patient is discharged or transferred from his or her current PAC setting. Another measure is called The Transfer of Health Information to the Patient–Post-Acute Care (PAC), which assesses “whether or not a current reconciled medication list was provided to the patient, family or caregiver when the patient was discharged from a PAC setting to a private home or apartment, a board and care home, assisted living, a group home, transitional living or home under care of an organized home health service organization or a hospice.”

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About pharma

Biologics Are Natural Monopolies (Part 1): Why Biosimilars Do Not Create Effective Competition: This article is a thought piece about cost and price regulation of biologicals. The authors advocate that instead of looking to biosimilars to reduce cost by increasing competition, there should be price controls after market exclusivity expires. This article is an interesting, thoughtful piece about an important and costly part of our healthcare system.

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